This weekend past I attended the Desert Dreams Conference in Scottsdale. I am a conference newbie no more! Well, I really am. One time does not make me a regular, after all. At least I am initiated to things, now. I ran into a friend in a writing group there, Brian, who promptly set up his own blog after hearing Janet Reid's workshop on social networking, and he has his thoughts on the conference over yonder.
I could say I felt the same way as Brian, but I never expected to be able to blend in. I knew I couldn't. I'm 6'8". I don't blend in much of anywhere. I also knew going into it that the conference was primarily for romance writers, far more of which belong to the fairer sex than my own. I estimate that there were perhaps 15 men there, but that didn't bother me. Everyone was friendly, and even a little apologetic that the guys were alienated, somewhat. I have to say that the conference is a class act, and I won't hesitate to go again. The only thing for me is that since I don't write romance, some of the workshops held nothign for me, but there were enough others that I got a good mix of information, and happily brought some of the workshop CDs home for later re-digestion.
I have to say that for anyone aspiring to be a writer, go to a conference. End of story. The experience of the event alone is well worth the money, as dear as that is to the poor, struggling artist. Hobnobbing with others of our ilk (I just had to use it. It's a word that needs to be taken out of t dictionary, dusted off, and put to use more often. Adopt a word today.) Is better than genuine coin of the realm. Perspectives on writing, making contacts in the industry, and just being a part of something greater is excellent. Yes, I know we writers are a reclusive, introspective, introvertive bunch, but we do need to associate with people outside of our computer lit writing sanctuaries from time to time.
Now I need to find another conference to go to. I'm hoping for one with a more mystery or fantasy theme to it, so I can plumb the depths of their knowledge.
I thought on my experience, and I thought I might offer some tips to conference goers. Keep in mind these are what worked for me, so experiences will vary. I have something of a quirky sense of humor. Okay, that's a lie. I definitely have a quirky sense of humor. Far on the other side of quirk from the normal side. I like it. I have fun with things. I'm the kind of guy that thoroughly enjoys puns. I like to make things funny when I can. To that end, I have two pieces of advice.
First, the name badge. If the conference doesn't allow for a customized message, make a secondary name badge where you can put something descriptive down about yourself. Mine for this conference was "Writer masquerading as college teacher". Why was it good? It showed my sense of humor, and it drew attention. The name badge started conversations for me as people were curious and had to read what was there. From that a good conversation would unfold.
Second, the business card. I made up rinky-dink, black and white, Avery business cards fed through my computer, and made from a MS Word template. It was cheap. The cards felt cheap. That didn't matter to me. I put the info I needed on there: contact info, the name of my book, and a quick line about the book. Along with that I had a neat little black and white picture of a fedora, which was just kind of, well, me. That's not the clever part (though a lot of people commented they liked the hat). The clever part was actually on the back. I had read up (yes, even teachers do their homework on occasion) and found that part of the practice of trading of business cards was writing down a short description of the giver of the card. I decided to add my own description to the back of the card. Just a quick line of "Friendly, really tall man with a sinister goatee." up at the top. I left a place for notes, clearly designated by the moniker "notes:" below the line of description. This little trick got me a lot of laughs, and made me, dare I say it? (dare, dare.) memorable in a good way. The name badge and line on the back of my simple, minimalist card made me memorable to people there. Iin comparison, I got a lot of fancy cards, bookmarks, and postcards overflowing with information, and no place to write anything about the people who gave it to me. I saw quite a few of those end up in the trash or on the table of unwanted things. I'm not saying my idea is better (not overtly, anyway), but it worked for me.
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